A blog post from Katy Lapinski, a senior Humanities for Teaching student completing an international internship in Chikuni, Zambia.
Learning by Teaching
Throughout my last three years of
studying to become a teacher, I have often been told that no matter how much
training you receive, nothing can fully prepare you for the first time you are
given the responsibility of teaching your own class. Over the last week, I learned
the reality of this statement as I began teaching my first ever course – a
course on writing at the Charles Lwanga College of Education in Chikuni, Zambia.
I began teaching this course to four classes, which each consist of 25-26
students. These classes were not only the first that I have ever taught without
a supervising teacher; they were also made up of students from a culture that
is much different from my own. Though it was the most difficult teaching
experience I have ever had, it also taught me unique lessons about culture,
education, and my own teaching style.
As I taught, I inevitably noticed
many differences between education in America and education in Zambia. Some of these
differences are as simple as how classes are organized. While Seattle
University students often have different classrooms and different classmates
for each course, Charles Lwanga students are grouped so that they have every
course in the same classroom and with the same classmates. In addition, Charles
Lwanga students attend all subjects – about 25 classes – for one hour each week,
unlike SU students who attend 3-4 classes for about five hours each week. But
beyond these differences in course structure, I noticed deep ideological
differences, such as how religion is approached in the classroom. I was taken
aback when one of my students stated that the purpose of writing is to express
the word of God, until I recognized that my surprise came from the fact that
America so firmly separates church from state. Noticing these differences helped
me realize that there are many approaches to education beyond what I have been
accustomed to in America.
An equally important realization for
me was that there are actually many similarities between education in Zambia
and education in America. The most prominent similarity that I noticed is that many
students in both places hold similar misconceptions about writing, like that
the most important part of writing is its technical correctness. In the same
way that some students at SU think that the Writing Center is an editing
service, some students at Charles Lwanga initially thought that my class was only
about editing. To overcome this misconception, I spent the first week of classes
introducing writing as a five-phase process that most importantly allows us to
develop our thinking. I found it difficult to introduce these concepts in
Zambia because students have never been taught writing as a process, and
students must hand-write their papers so they are inevitably concerned with
more technical issues like handwriting and spelling. These differences helped
me realize that I am privileged to have received an education that taught
writing as a process from a young age and offered resources like computers that
allowed me to focus more on revising my ideas than correcting my spelling and
handwriting. Since the students in my classes have not had these experiences, I
have spent the week trying to reconcile how I work with writing in America with
how my Zambian students can most realistically work with writing based on their
experience and the resources available to them.
Adjusting my teaching to fit the
needs of students from another culture forced me to practice many important
presentation skills. For example, the language barrier between me and my
students caused me to slow down my speech, rephrase important concepts in
different ways, speak with terms that I knew the students were familiar with, accompany
my speech with gestures, and use examples that were relevant to the students.
Though these practices are especially helpful – even necessary – when teaching
students from another culture, they are helpful regardless of the culture of
students. I found that teaching in another culture led to many realizations
about teaching that are applicable in all cultures. For example, I found that each
class has unique dynamics, even though I am teaching the same content to all
four classes. I also found that teaching the same course four times in one week
allows me the opportunity to improve, but this improvement is not always
linear; I may improve my explanation of one concept in my second class only to
find that I did not explain other concepts as clearly. To determine how to
improve my teaching each class, I have found it helpful to reflect on the
questions that students ask. These insights will help me improve my teaching
not only as I continue to teach my students in Chikuni, but also when I return
to the United States and begin to teach my own class there.
students at Charles Lwanga have warmly welcomed me both in and out of the
classroom, even inviting me to participate in extracurricular activities such
as the cultural dance club. Last weekend, they invited me to come to Choma to
support the volleyball team in a tournament. Here is a photo of some of my
students (and others) celebrating their victory:
From Lindsay Mannion's blog!
In an effort to be a more consistent blogger, but without the time or energy to write a finely crafted blog post, I present my Monday musings, which are just a jumbled assortment of things that are interesting to me, over which I tried to put a crafty title (alliteration!) to distract you from how disjointed it is.
This weekend I went to la Concepción with my friend David, where I ate delicious gallo pinto for both dinner and breakfast; met up with Juliana and some other friends at la Laguna de Apoyo on Sunday; got a bad sunburn (even though I swear I put on sunscreen!); and took no pictures. I’m a bad tourist. I know.
I have started confusing English and Spanish—talking in Spanish to people who speak English and talking in English to people who speak Spanish. (Is this a step in the language acquisition process? I sure hope so!
One night about two weeks ago, a bunch of bats showed up at the house. Now they come every night to eat the mangoes. They are very messy eaters and constantly drop their mangoes on the metal roof, resulting in a very loud bang.
School here has continued to be very group-work-centered. When we have readings, we don’t just do the reading. We have to prepare a group presentation on the reading. (And presentations here mean putting lots of text (copied right out of the reading) in a powerpoint presentation and reading right from the slide. Where are my Socratic seminars!?
Every morning I have delicious Nicaraguan coffee with breakfast. It’s okay, you can be jealous.
Practically everyone here has facebook, but they pronounce it “fay-boo” or sometimes they just say “fay.” It took me weeks to understand that “mándame por fay” meant “send it to me on facebook”. It didn’t help that I didn’t know you could send documents through facebook. How fancy of you, fay-boo!
And perhaps the most exciting news of all: I have a new favorite Nicaraguan food, güirilas! They are tortillas made from sweet corn, and they are oh so delicious! I would like to clarify, however, that I am not replacing gallo pinto, simply adding güirilas to my list of favorites. In fact, do you know what would be the absolute best? Eating gallo pinto in a güirila! I’m hungry just writing about it! Second lunch?
During this Fall Quarter, the Matteo Ricci College will be keeping up with two of our students who are having international experiences!
Katy Lapinski, a senior Humanities for Teaching student, is completing an international internship in Zambia. Katy is teaching at the Charles Lwanga College of Education in Chikuni, Zambia.
Lindsay Mannion, also a senior Humanities for Teaching student, is studying abroad at la Universidad Centroamericana in Nicaragua. La UCA is a Jesuit university, and is Seattle University's sister school.
As they post their stories on their blogs, this webpage will also update. You can find the blog links at the bottom of this post!
Katy - Zambia - http://sueducationabroad.wordpress.com/category/zambia/
Lindsay - Nicaragua - http://mannionl.wordpress.com
On May 11th, the Poverty Education Center hosted "Jesuit Universities Engaging Poverty: Perspectives from Seattle and Managua." The event brought together students, faculty, staff, and community members to hear from Seattle University and la Universidad Centroamericana about how they were engaging poverty in their communities.
Poverty Education Center